Home Capital Program 2015-2019 On a crowded subway today with no solution on hand

On a crowded subway today with no solution on hand

by Benjamin Kabak

Sometimes, when I ride the subways during supposed off-peak hours, I’m reminded of a twist on a phrase Yogi Berra coined. Of a popular spot, the Yankee great once said, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” In a way, it makes perfect sense and no sense at all, but applied to the subways, the inverse is seemingly true. Unfortunately, it’s too crowded, and everybody keeps going there.

My personal anecdote spans the course of this week. Hot on the heels of the MTA announcing that they recognize they have a crowded problem came some of the more crowded rides I’ve taken in months. I had to let some early-morning Q trains pass me by at 7th Ave. because it was impossible to board. Then, on Tuesday night, while coming back to Brooklyn from the Upper West Side, I had to stand all the way from 96th to Grand Army Plaza, and on Wednesday, journeying at 9 p.m. from Union Sq. back to 7th Ave., there were no seats to be had on my Q trains.

Traveling companions who boarded at Canal St. were shocked to find the train so crowded at a relatively late weeknight hour. “It never used to be this crowded,” one said to the other, and I nodded to myself. As recently as a five, let alone ten, years ago, the subways just weren’t this crowded. We’re living through an historically unprecedented explosion in ridership, and the MTA can’t catch up.

Right now, the problems facing the MTA are those of the present and those of the future. In the short term, the MTA, still years away from fully recovering from the effects of Sandy, has a backlog of repairs that need to be initiative. In the long term, to meet demands of today’s ridership, the MTA needed to start planning a decade ago, but right now, they’re stuck in a neutral planning for demands of the next decade without a fully funded five-year capital plan. There’s no easy way out of this conundrum.

The news isn’t exactly getting better for the financially beleaguered transit agency. In a comprehensive report issued this week [pdf], the Citizens Budget Commission examined the MTA’s finances and determined that the agency may face a funding gap greater than $15 billion. In a nutshell, the non-partisan group doesn’t believe the MTA has the cash on hand to make certain contributions to the budget, and thus, the funding gap is closer to $20 billion. On the one hand, this is all accounting sleight of hand, but on the other, someone — future New Yorkers and subway riders — will pay for more debt financing through steeper and more frequent fare hikes or worse service.

As part of the report, the CBC examined numerous funding options, and while no one around here went for their plan to cap unlimited ride MetroCards, the CBC has largely examined driving as a potential source of revenue. The new report discusses the Move New York tolling plan and a variety of fees and taxes on driving to fund transit expansion. These are ideas the MTA tentatively endorsed yesterday, and promisingly, the Board’s Staten Island rep seems to be on board. (For more on the CBC’s ideas, check out this video.)

But I keep coming back to the crowds. The MTA’s system in 2015 can’t handle increasing volumes, and nothing indicates ridership is going to decline. The MTA needs to start planning now for a future with even more straphangers, and they need the money to do so. Every day we wait is another day with trains too crowded for rush hour passengers, delays due to signal problems, and every transit woe in between.

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Duke March 26, 2015 - 1:32 am

Lack of capacity on the subway is a problem. New capacity is extremely expensive.

Seems to me the best solution to this problem is to take advantage of other existing infrastructure that is underused for bureaucratic reasons. Namely, the commuter railroads. Any commuter rail trip which begins and ends within the five boroughs should have the same fare as a subway ride, and should offer free transfers to subways and buses.

Then, add extra trains that allow in-city commuter rail service to maintain frequency of every 15-20 minutes throughout the day. Metro-North can short turn extra trains at Mount Vernon West and Spuyten Duyvil. LIRR can short turn extra trains at Bayside, Queens Village, and Valley Stream. Then watch crowding problems on the 7, E, and F see some relief. Unfortunately the benefit to The Bronx is limited as there is only spare space in the Park Ave tunnel to add more trains off-peak, and Brooklyn can’t take much advantage at all since it has no commuter rail connection to Manhattan. But it’s something.

Eric March 26, 2015 - 6:59 am

Yep. Also new stations along the West Side Line to relieve the 1.

Chaz Antonelli March 26, 2015 - 12:32 pm

Excuse me?!?

The West Side already has THREE lines, the East Side has only ONE, and the hopes for the East Side’s Second Ave Subway is always in doubt.

Before we even consider another West Side line, let’s get the East Side up to the same level of service please.

Eric March 26, 2015 - 6:03 pm

I would agree with you, except that adding stations on the West Side could be literally a thousand times cheaper.

LLQBTT March 26, 2015 - 9:12 am

Yes, add Triboro RX, Rockaway Beach Branch, etc. Heck even the LIRR Main Line in Queens and, ‘gulp’ the Bushwick Branch. The hipsters would love that one!

Lee Sander called these the hidden gems I believe, but current thinking says these places are better off as parks or remaining fallow.

Alon Levy March 26, 2015 - 12:10 pm

Yes! POP on commuter rail could make this a reality, by reducing operating costs enough to make frequent off-peak service affordable.

Next stop: infill stops. The Port Washington Line should have 1-2 extra stops paralleling the 7 and the QB Line, the Atlantic Branch should probably stop at Utica, and if at all possible, Metro-North Penn Station Access service should stop at Astoria for the N transfer.

Larry Littlefield March 26, 2015 - 1:59 pm

The state legislators owned by the LIRR would never allow this.

Subway riders are being packed in, in part, to pay for the graft on Long Island.

Bronx March 26, 2015 - 6:06 pm

A new MN station at Depot Pl and the Major Deegan Expressway in the Bronx could help relieve the most congested section of the 4 train in this borough if priced the same as the NYC subway

Vinny O'Hare March 26, 2015 - 1:45 am

You should see the A train Brooklyn bound in the middle of the night you can’t get a seat. Usually have to stand until Howard Beach. You would swear it was rush hour.

Seth March 26, 2015 - 1:48 pm

It’s completely astonishing. Right after the A switches to local and stops running as frequently, they become rush-hour packed. The segment from West 4th to Nostrand Avenue is the worst, with a huge exodus of riders at the Nostrand station.

Vinny O'Hare March 26, 2015 - 1:54 pm

Yeah that is the first few cars, the rest of the train stays packed. 🙁

al March 27, 2015 - 10:58 am

Extend the E to Euclid or Lefferts Ave.

That Guy March 27, 2015 - 2:33 pm

How about not ending A express service around 10pm? Most other express service ends at or a little past midnight.

Spendmor Wastemor March 26, 2015 - 2:03 am

The repair situation is not hopeless, there simple needs to be the will to get work done rather than maximize body/hours while minimizing output.

Some but not ingredients of the fix for this are:
Do major maintenance by shutting a track and temp-walling it off for a 1-2 weeks. If need be, shut a whole line. Short maintenance windows are a huge wast of labor; deliver crew on a sloow work train, set up, untwiddle thumbs, eventually get some work done then reverse all in time for service before 5 am. Thus almost nothing is getting done over a weeknight and barely more over a weekend.

Increase the quality of work so that new tracks do not begin crumbling the day after they’re installed. I’ve seen this wherever NYCT lays new subway track; the concrete crumbles, the track wiggle because of indifferent quality spec and workmanship, and those small defects quickly escalate after being pounded by 100s of trains.

Find the world’s most productive railroad crews doing technically comparable work, quantify their output transparently, so the interested public can see if the comparison is being fudged, and then require MTA do do half as well, then 2/3, etc. I wouldn’t hold them to 100% because they’ll just refuse and sabotage the whole thing.
BUT if they don’t reach, say, 3/4 the time/quality benchmark of the world’s best, the job gets outsourced for 10 years. They get it back only by beating the benchmark.

Selected express trains could move faster, meaning the same equipment circulates more frequently, carrying more px. Example, B express in Brooklyn could hit 70mph instead of 33. That and crossing the bridge less slowly could save 20 min per round trip. This requires various technical and policy fixes, none are rocket science.

APH March 26, 2015 - 2:25 am

I agree the short maintenance windows are a waste. I don’t see what’s so controversial about just shutting large sections of a line for a week straight and running a ton of buses. I assume this is something people suggested many many decades ago but to my knowledge this is not how things are done in NYC.

SEAN March 26, 2015 - 8:15 am

I think the MTA wants to avoid what the CTA went through with reconstruction of the Green Line. It took several years for ridership to recover once renovations were completed.

Christopher March 26, 2015 - 9:44 am

But Chicago continues to do it. They take out L stations and lines whenever they need to overhaul them. The latest is in the loop where 2 stations are being combined into one new station. So if it’s not working for them, why do they keep doing it?

SEAN March 26, 2015 - 12:28 pm

You are talking about stations – I was talking about an entire line. Why are they still doing it if that was the original response? It could be better communication with the riders witch the MTA has difficulty doing effectively.

Brandon March 26, 2015 - 8:19 am

In urbanist circles a lot of people decry the fact that most cycling in Portland and other places appears to come at the expense of transit ridership. It sounds like that’s exactly what New York needs.

Eric March 26, 2015 - 3:13 pm

But cyclists take up a lot of road space, limiting the amount available for buses. Portland is not dense enough to have to worry about that, but NYC is.

Bronx March 26, 2015 - 6:09 pm

Just remove a moving lane (see 1st and 2nd Ave). Most of our arteries are wide enough to support buses, bicycles and other traffic. I wouldn’t say that bicycles take up too much road space, more realistically POVs do.

AG March 26, 2015 - 11:51 pm

More cycling is important but it can’t do enough. According to the census NYC added another 50k people for a total of 8.49 mill. To put that in perspective – the every building and expanding metro areas of Miami and Orlando added 66k and 50k respectively. Those places just build further and further out – while all the growth here is in the 5 boroughs (NYC’s suburbs actually are not growing except Rockland County). It’s only getting more crowded. Bikes are good – but not enough.

Marsha March 26, 2015 - 8:29 am

One solution is to add more trains. When you have to wait seven minutes for a train at 8:30 AM, of course it’s going to be crowded. Off-peak and weekend waits are even worse. I know it’s a money issue but it’s time for the funds to be found to ease the crowding.

Herb Lehman March 26, 2015 - 9:35 am

EXACTLY. The MTA is not even close to maxed out in some cases. Everyone makes so much of the crowding on the Lexington Av line, but the MTA only runs the uptown 6 line on a 4-5 minute headway betweeen 8-9 am according to their own schedules. That’s 13 or 14 trains per hour maximum. I have read that the maximum capacity of the 6 is 24 trains per hour. Even accounting for the fact that they can’t run that full capacity due to dwell time at the busier stations, that’s woefully short of capacity. And I’m sure the 6 is just one example.

Eric March 26, 2015 - 3:25 pm

Looking at the exact times on Google Maps, there are 22 southbound and 18 northbound 6 trains through Midtown between 8-9AM. So, not quite as bad as you say.

Herb Lehman March 26, 2015 - 6:50 pm

Sorry, buddy, but I ride the uptown 6 from Grand Central every day at about 8:20 am and there most certainly are NOT 18 trains per hour.

Eric March 28, 2015 - 4:11 pm

I’m sure they bunch, so you frequently have to wait longer than (60/18) minutes. But unless you’ve sat in the station to measure this, I would trust the official schedule over your impressions.

fjh March 26, 2015 - 4:35 pm

Assume each station platform has a maximum 28 TPH. So for any given line, the peak TPH is limited by the most-used train platform. If the 6 shares platforms with any other line its frequency increase will have to be balance against the other line.

Eric March 26, 2015 - 6:06 pm

Not a problem, the 6 is entirely segregated from other lines.

(If only more lines were like that. Moscow is about to run up to 48 trains per track per hour, and part of the reason is that all lines are completely segregated from all others.)

Eric March 26, 2015 - 6:09 pm

“able” not “about”

Alon Levy March 26, 2015 - 6:57 pm

Where have you heard 48? I’ve only heard 39.

Eric March 28, 2015 - 4:06 pm

“In this way, conventional train control systems can support a throughput of up to 30 trains per hour with typical train length, performance, station dwells, an
d operating margins. Overlay systems can increase this throughput by 10 to 15%. A notable exception to this is in Russia where conventional signaling routinely handles 40 metro trains per hour. This is achieved by tightly controlling station dwells to a maximum of 25 seconds and rigorous adherence to schedule using digital clocks in each station to display the seconds from the departure of the previous train. New Moscow metro lines are being designed for 44 and 48 trains per hour—by far the closest train spacing on any rail—irrespective of technology.”


adirondacker12800 March 26, 2015 - 6:58 pm

48 trains an hour is one every 75 seconds. They must travel very slowly.

LLQBTT March 26, 2015 - 9:06 am

When I read articles with this theme, first I’m happy to be driving for my commute because it takes half the time and relieves 75% of the aggravation.

Second, we are so proud our city and our great achievements, blah, blah, blah. However, this growth in the city and ridership was forecast many years ago, and what was the response from our great leaders and transit planners? OK, there was the poor man’s BRT added to the Bx12 in 2007, and no other ‘improved’ routes for years. And we got CBTC for the L. Whoopee! And we got more frequent service here and there.

Listening to the radio this morning on my comfy morning drive, WNYC reported that the NYC population grew incrementally to just under 8.5 million, and that upstate lost a few folks along the way.

When I was a kid, the city was barely 7.5 million, with far fewer tourists to boot. The AA was a 4 car train set of 60′ cars on the weekends. All these broken rail reports remind me of the red flag zones we had back then in the good, bad old days.

That was the low point. Then the city got safe and the city became a place where people wanted to live. This was all known and forecast.

There is no vision. There is no plan. We are not the great transit planning city we were 100 years ago.

Theorem Ox March 26, 2015 - 1:15 pm

Enjoy the happiness while it lasts. Zero Vision will see to it that your commute by car within NYC limits will become equally unpleasant over time.

The degradation of quality in every mode of transport (aside from walking) around the city is what New York seems to be aiming for as a common denominator. That’s the only logical conclusion I can come down from my observations as a regular weekday subway (or bus in case of breakdowns) commuter and a regular driver on weekends.

pete March 26, 2015 - 3:33 pm

Zero Vision hurts bus riders more than car drivers that just ignore the speed limit. Limited and SBS bus now wont drive more than 20 mph, and stop at green lights and wait for them to turn red.

Bronx March 26, 2015 - 6:39 pm

Enlighten me, which buses travel over 20 MPH on average again? I have not experienced any reduction in travel time due to Vision Zero; and the closest artery, which happens to serve buses I use on a regular basis, was reconfigured on its behalf.

Bronx March 26, 2015 - 6:37 pm

I personally hate driving in this city. I would rather be in a crowded subway car reading an eBook than deal with regular traffic, unpredictable traffic, parking, fines and potential collisions or potholes.

Useless for my regular Manhattan bound commutes.

Bronx March 26, 2015 - 6:41 pm

The city needs to dedicate significantly more road space to buses and bicycles. Still waiting for physically protected bus lanes…

al March 27, 2015 - 11:15 am

Exactly. Bike lanes for shorter trips. Bus lanes on surface streets for Express buses.

If the peak direction curb lanes are BRT lanes during AM Rush on Lexington and Roosevelt Ave, Queens, Northern, and Woodhaven Blvd, you could run express buses from East Harlem, North, Western, and Central Queens in the morning.

Let out contracts for some of these new bus lines to private bus companies so you don’t end up paying for with gap shifted drivers. The rest would be regular city buses on runs towards Midtown Manhattan, after dropping off passengers at the Manhattan and Queens hubs, instead of running to the depots.

Eric Brasure March 26, 2015 - 9:16 am


Look–we all know what the subway needs. It needs BILLIONS of dollars, for signal modernization, articulated trains, crowd flow alleviation, and, yes, additional capacity in the form of new subway lines in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens, as well as a fully built-out Second Avenue Subway, a 125th St Crosstown Line. BRT and bike share are great but they’re not going to get any significant numbers of people from southern Brooklyn to Manhattan in any reasonable amount of time.

The last time the subways were this crowded, we still had the els.

In a sane world, there would be a Second System for the 21st Century. But we live in a country which is rapidly losing the appetite for large scale projects and the ability to pay for them. All of the hand-wringing about the sorry state of the subway system is overblown at this point, but I hope that New Yorkers don’t ignore this particular canary.

It’s gonna get mighty uncomfortable and unreliable to use the subways to get around. I’m glad I got out, frankly.

Larry Littlefield March 26, 2015 - 9:28 am

Off peak crowding could be relieved if people were willing to pay a little more. All you need to do is hire more train operators and conductors to run more trains. The train cars, tracks and stations already exist.

Rush hour crowding is more of a problem. But it won’t be taken seriously until I see a plan to eliminate the entire edifice of BS and graft and build the second phase of the SAS, and the Rutgers/DeKalb connection, for $2 billion in total.

BrooklynBus March 26, 2015 - 9:52 am

No. If the MTA really followed their subway loading guidelines, there would be no overcrowding late at night. I have experienced overcrowded Q trains at 10 PM at night for years having to stand from 34 St to Church Av.

And they want you to give up your cars and take subways or buses where it is not uncommon to wait a full hour for a bus during the day. In the past month, I have heard of four such instances. Someone on NY Transit Forums waited one hour and twenty five minutes for a Q 54 and the MTA reported no delays on their website or on Twitter. He would have taken a different route home if he knew about the delay beforehand.

As long as the MTA treats its riders like this, all the money in the world won’t solve their problems and someone would have to be crazy to give up their car.

eo March 26, 2015 - 10:30 am

The reality is that we need to pay more. The “gains” is productivity that are used to justify the declines in the inflation adjusted fare are mostly bogus. There are some gains, but they are not on the order of what they are made to be. On top of that a lot of improvements have been added over the years (such as air conditioning), so the fares should have probably risen somewhat in inflation adjusted dollars to just reflect the reality of the costs. Unfortunately due to political reasons we keep the fares lower than they should be and borrow the rest.

The sad fact is that a minority of which I am a member wants to pay more, but only to get better service. I am OK paying even $5 if the extra money goes to more service and capital projects, but that is not how the majority of the voters see it — they prefer another quarter in their pockets today. And even though I am OK paying $5 for better service, neither I not any of the members in that minority have $20B change hidden somewhere to just give it to the MTA to build the Second Avenue Line, so I end up taking my $5 buying a car and driving because I have no alternative.

The other thing that most people do not understand is that there is no inherent right to transportation affordable to everyone. There used to be times that half the neighbourhood could not afford the fare, so they never took the subway, they never left the neighbourhood. That was not because the private operators did not like those people. No, the private operators would have loved these people to be able to afford the fare and use their subways, but the private operators could not lower the fares — they had costs to cover. Then the society (or the majority of voters) decided that everyone needed to be able to take the subways and leave the neighbourhood, so they instituted price controls and regulated the private companies out of business. The government had no choice but to get into the business of running subways because nobody else would, but the society still wanted to let everyone ride for a fare that did not cover the full costs. The ways to temporary accomplish that are two: borrow and degrade the quality of service (where quality is a broad definition including overcrowding and other items that are not generally thought of as such). And we did both. We degraded the quality — in the 60s and the 70s we did not borrow, so we let the system fall in disrepair, then we discovered that we can trade off quality for debt so we borrowed and then borrowed some more, so we got better cars, improved tracks and so on, but on someone else’s dime. But eventually the reality will catch up. At some point we will not be able to borrow enough to keep up the quality, so we will either let it deteriorate or hike fares (or other taxes or equivalent transfers) to actually cover the costs. Then we will either be back to a situation where non-negligible parts of the neighbourhood will not be able to afford the subways, or some other taxes will be higher, or the quality of the rides will be so bad that only the “less fortunate” will be taking it while the “more fortunate” drive, take a helicopter or use whatever fancy transportation mode is available then.
The government is not a magician — it cannot create money out of nowhere (the federal government might be able to do so for short periods, but over long periods reality will catch up), so it cannot provide a service (in this case the subway) below cost for too long (sometimes the definition for too long could be decades). The cost and the price of the service catch up eventually and it the government will not raise the price one way the cost catches up is by overcrowding so the same total costs are divided over larger ridership. What that means is crowded trains and less comfort riding. One really gets what one pays for … there is no free lunch.

Kid Twist March 26, 2015 - 9:43 am

How about congestion pricing on the subway? Raise the rush-hour fare to encourage those who can to ride off-peak.

Or, get really creative. Raise the fares only on the busiest lines to direct crowds elsewhere. Increase the rush-hour fare on the L and lower it on the J, for example. Raise the peak-hour fare on the Lex and lower it on the Third Avenue bus. Raise the rush-hour fare on the West Side IRT and lower it at the Central Park West IND stations.

This will never happen.

Alan March 26, 2015 - 1:15 pm

Increase the rush-hour fare on the L and lower it on the J

Umm, I think the J is pretty packed as it is. When I take the M sometimes in the morning I see the J pull up Myrtle-Broadway around 7:15 AM and it’s jammed packed.

lawhawk March 26, 2015 - 9:47 am

Unless and until the state has a governor that truly buys into mass transit as a revenue/economic generator and that we have to invest more in the system than we currently borrow to close funding gaps (or rob the budget to cover other parts of the state budget), none of the proposals to address critical needs with the MTA will be resolved.

And that doesn’t even begin to touch on the cross-Hudson issues that NY and NJ have to address.

Congestion pricing might be a step in the right direction, but how the revenue from that gets allocated is also critical. It’s true that a significant amount has to go to maintaining and upgrading bridge/tunnel infrastructure across the city, but without properly maintained mass transit, all those bridges and tunnels would be overwhelmed.

It also means getting the MTA to finally address items like the separate LIRR/MNR divisions (up to and including the safety problems that still seem to dog the MNR); getting NJTransit and MTA to work on through-running trains so that resources are better utilized (existing rail stock can handle more people and limit bottlenecks at places like NYP, Sunnyside, etc.).

It further means getting the MTA to address capital construction costs – to at least get them comparable to those of places like Paris or London, where cost per km or mile is still significantly cheaper than NYC. And if we can get the costs comparable, we could build that much more for the same amount. It’s inexcusable that we can’t get needed projects done for lack of money, but the lack of money stems from a lack of political will to see projects done.

smotri March 26, 2015 - 1:17 pm

Voters need to put pressure on politicians to get this to happen. All the complaining about the system is not going to have any effect unless the electorate demands it.

Peter M March 26, 2015 - 10:30 am

A long term solution has to be put in place for the expansion of the subways beyond the current minimalist proposals (2nd Avenue Phases 1, and maybe 2,3,4), otherwise we will continue to live with overcrowded subway lines. Unfortunately our political representatives lack the vision and temperament to drive the mass transit ideas to fruition. Their attempts to pander to every constituency will never allow a solution for mass transit to materialize. If they can’t deliver a major capital project within their “8 Year” tenure (assuming they get reelected) they will not propose it! The only solutions we ever hear from politicians concern BRT. Instead of Funding the Rockaway branch reactivation, we get solutions for Woodhaven BRT for over $200 Million. No politician is going to stick their neck out for a project like this, when they know they will make enemies to some constituent group, and the exorbitant NYC construction costs are going to make them look as fiscally negligent!

Alan March 26, 2015 - 11:07 am

On the Seventh Avenue local (and probably all other service), the head times are WAY longer than they were before the recession. So the overcrowding isn’t being caused entirely by this surprise spike in ridership.

D in Bushwick March 26, 2015 - 11:51 am

Is that true that trains used to run closer together before the recession? So now we’re stuck with fewer trains from the recession and filthy stations from the 70s because lowered standards become the MTA’s new standard.

Chaz Antonelli March 26, 2015 - 12:35 pm

It disgusts me the number of automobiles, especially SUVs, that are plugging up our roadways in Manhattan.

Let’s re-examine enforcing a “congestion zone” like London, with the funds going to offset public transportation.

Anyone that plugs up the roads and fills the air with smoke and soot should PAY for the privilege to do so.

John March 26, 2015 - 3:34 pm

Ding ding ding! Winner winner chicken dinner! This has been discussed so many times as an excellent source of added revenue for the MTA. Unfortunately, it will never take off because of our nation’s car culture. Cuomo has proven that he is committed to improving travel as long as it’s not public transportation. See: Tappan Zee Bridge.

Bronx March 26, 2015 - 6:16 pm

I’m sure it’s going to happen eventually. The alternatives are worse and the benefits are worth it.

al March 27, 2015 - 11:24 am

One alternative would be to add 6AM-10PM bus lanes to all Avenues and major Crosstown streets, and bridges in Manhattan. It would cut Single occupancy vehicles. Do the same for critical and congested arterials in the other Boroughs.

otherAlan March 26, 2015 - 5:13 pm

Congestion zones sound good, until you realize they’re just a way to get those pesky middle-class drivers out of the way so that rich people can zoom along unimpeded

Bronx March 26, 2015 - 6:14 pm

Blah, middle class in NYC have a lot more to gain from better mass transportation, reduced pollution, reduced collisions and reduced spending and lost revenue from automotive infrastructure.

ComradeFrana March 27, 2015 - 2:51 pm

But it’s also a way to allow middle and lower-class people on the bus zoom along unimpeded.

Bronx March 26, 2015 - 6:17 pm

I agree 100%.

AG March 26, 2015 - 11:55 pm

It’s called the “Move NY Plan”… Write your state representative.

tacony March 26, 2015 - 3:33 pm

If you have access to NY Times archives, check out “City to Increase Subway Service On the IRT and BMT Lines Today” from December 12, 1946. A summary:

New improvements the article notes in midday service from 10am to 4pm:
– IRT both local and express go up to every 4 minutes from every 5
– BMT go to every 2.5 minutes from every 3

And improvements to service “during the pre-dawn hours”:
– BMT cut from 20 to at least “15 minutes and in some instances to 10 minutes”
– “Post-midnight service on the IRT lines in Brooklyn will be operated to Flatbush Avenue and New Lots Avenue every 12 minutes”

Rush-hour service was already “at a peak” and “cannot be increased” (they don’t mention the frequency – based on other articles I’ve read I think they were basically just running them back-to-back as closely as they could, so I’d imagine it was 2 minutes or less between trains)

Sounds pretty nice, eh? Too bad there’s just no way to run more convenient service like we used to. Now we have load guidelines that specify that we have to wait 8 minutes to try again to squeeze onto the train we couldn’t fit on 8 minutes ago. We get to spend so much more time in the beautifully maintained stations these days.

But let’s ignore that and keep comparing MTA service today to the city’s nadir in the 70s and 80s and be glad we aren’t mugged every time we get on a train. Keeping expectations low is the key to happiness…

Stewart Clamen March 26, 2015 - 3:54 pm

What were train lengths in 1946?

tacony March 26, 2015 - 5:31 pm

I’m not sure about 1946, but in 1916:

“Originally 8-car express trains were operated at a 2 1/2-minute interval and 5 car local trains at three-minute intervals; now 10-car expresses are operated at a minimum interval of one minute and forty eight seconds at a speed of 25 miles an hour including stops and 6 car-local trains at the same interval”

Source: https://books.google.com/books?id=WsY0AQAAMAAJ&lpg=PA161&ots=zo0qxH13Wj&dq=nyc%20subway%20%225-car%22%20local%20%2210-car%22&pg=PA161#v=onepage&q=nyc%20subway%20%225-car%22%20local%20%2210-car%22&f=false

Larry Littlefield March 26, 2015 - 9:09 pm

That’s what I was looking for!

Gothamist was looking for freelance submissions not long ago. Write your article and send it in! Headways now vs. back in the day, when ridership was last this high. Now the $ go to the retired and the debt, not to service and maintenance.

Now to be fair, what about the IND? The BMT was squeezing most of its service onto the Broadway line, as it was not linked to the IND.

But still.

Bronx March 26, 2015 - 6:22 pm

The Bronx needs more cross town SBS with more advanced features than the SBS 12. This would relieve the subways because a lot of people take the train down to E 125th or E 149th Sts to transfer back up on another line.

We need more SBS all around so that people opt for buses over the subways to complete shorter trips. Right now, the buses are so slow that people will usually opt for the subway.

Vision Zero also needs to step it up to encourage more bicycling. A lot of people are simply just too scared to ride around.

SI March 27, 2015 - 11:24 am

Let’s split the MTA into several agencies and let them compete with one another. Profit will lead the incentive for construction.

Ronald March 27, 2015 - 1:08 pm

The 2010 service cuts implemented a reduction in service standards during non-rush hours. Rather than having 100% of a seated load (everyone should get a seat), it is now 125% of a seated load (about a quarter of passengers will have to stand). If they restored service levels back to pre-2010 levels, not only would we have as many trains running as we did 5 years ago, but there would be even more trains because of the increase in ridership. This would at least address non-rush hours


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